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Number 8: Karl Lagerfeld's Banner Year

Fashion’s consummate overachiever outdid himself in 2011, unfurling collaborations and side projects galore.

Chanel Karl Lagerfeld
Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Year In Fashion issue 12/12/2011

Fashion’s consummate overachiever outdid himself in 2011, unfurling collaborations and side projects galore, keeping Chanel and Fendi running at high creative throttle, and mapping out ambitious plans for his signature brand.


There was even a new women’s fragrance aptly named for his dazzling output: Karleidoscope.


“As you know, I love occasional co-branding,” the designer deadpanned in July, then discussing the exclusive capsule collection he designed for Macy’s with an average price tag of $100. Hundreds mobbed the Herald Square flagship when Lagerfeld made an appearance in September for its launch in the retailer’s Impulse department.


It was but one of multiple collaborations this year, including an ongoing collection for Italy’s Hogan, a line of pens and lighters for S.T. Dupont, crystal tableware for Sweden’s Orrefors, a pop-up shop for the Schwarzkopf hair-care brand and graphic bottle designs for Coca-Cola Light in Europe.


Well aware of his popularity, Lagerfeld unveiled long-awaited plans to take his signature brand into the burgeoning masstige price zone. A new collection labeled Karl is to debut on Net-a-Porter in January, and a more upscale Karl Lagerfeld Paris line, licensed to Italy’s Ittierre SpA, is to follow for fall 2012. Coming onstream in 2013 is a signature line of men’s and women’s timepieces with Fossil Inc.


Pier Paolo Righi, the new president of Karl Lagerfeld BV, said he expects to multiply “substantially” sales of Lagerfeld branded products — currently generating  “north of 100 million euros,” or about $133.4 million at current exchange, annually at retail. “We also think there is a big opportunity to drive the business with strategic alliances and partnerships,” Righi added.


Meanwhile, Lagerfeld turned out hit collections for his main employer, Chanel, and also for Fendi, earning acclaim by making a convincing case for daywear at both houses amid a sea of party dresses on designer runways.


“Life is not a cocktail party,” he proclaimed backstage before Fendi’s spring 2012 show in Milan, a parade of fetching, grown-up clothes. “I like daily life.”


That said, Lagerfeld did not relinquish his title as one of fashion’s most formidable and imaginative showmen, sending Chanel collections parading down the grand, sloping promenade in front of the mythic Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc; down barren planks lined with smoking volcanic rock for a show WWD dubbed “Apocalypse Wow”; or through a magical undersea world constructed across the expanse of Paris’ Grand Palais.


And that’s not everything Lagerfeld crossed off his eye-watering to-do list.


Besides a slew of editorial shoots and campaigns for Chanel, Fendi and Dior Homme, other photography projects included a Chanel handbag campaign starring Blake Lively and a series of television commercials he directed for Magnum ice cream starring Rachel Bilson.


For ordinary nine-to-fivers, it may be comforting to know even Lagerfeld has his limits. Discussing plans to release, with his friend Gerhard Steidl, the complete writings of Friedrich Nietzsche as the 19th-century philosopher wanted them published, Lagerfeld noted he would print the 12-volume set, “Nietzsche’s Nietzsche,” in German only. “I would love to publish it in English, but it would take five to seven years to translate it,” he lamented.

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